2017 came and went. It didn’t even wait for me to stop writing ‘16 on all my dates. What a crazy, busy, aggressive, yet supremely joy-filled year. I learned so much in 2017, about myself, about God, about this thing called “life.” Yet, out of everything that has happened, one lesson rose up on the podium above the rest. That is why I love my local church. I want to list five reasons why I love my church. These five reasons do not sufficiently cover everything, but they certainly stand as the impetuses to keep serving at my church.
My church is diverse
My local church is a pretty decent size. It is definitely a Chinese-cultured church, meaning most of us who attend the church come from a Chinese descent. Yet, our church still feels multi-cultural, in that we have this nice mix of Chinese families who have immigrated from different parts of the world. The multi-cultural atmosphere reminds me that each of us has experienced God’s grace in unique and different ways.
My church is tri-lingual: English, Cantonese, and Mandarin. Where I feel like my church differs from other Chinese churches is in this area – our English congregation is the largest congregation and makes a profound influence in the direction of our church. This has been an underlying blessing, as the youth and young adults at our church have more say than they imagine.
My church is multi-generational. I have been touched and impacted by many faithful individuals who have ran the race before me, and are now passing on the baton to my generation. I am so thankful for how much my church is willing to invest in me to grow as a leader, preacher, and counselor. I have seen so many examples of faithful servanthood, and I pray that I can one day live up to their names. I do not deserve a church who is willing to serve me so that I can serve others.
Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:13-14)
My church preaches the Word of God.
Most people who visit our church come away to know one thing, if nothing else: that we preach God’s Word. Scripture is central to what we do. We do not just state that in our missional statement; it is lived out by our pastors on the pulpit, through our teachers in Sunday School, and our counseling to one another. God’s Word is our compass, our mass, and our anchor.
Not only that, but we teach our congregations, especially the youth, to learn how to read and interpret the Bible on their own. We invest in training our leaders on how to teach Scripture accurately. We are willing to create opportunities for people to preach and lead, because we trust that the Holy Spirit will work through the faithfulness of His Word, and not just on the qualifications and skills of the people. When God’s Word is spoken, God is speaking.
I love my church, because my church loves the Word of God.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
My church loves each other
To be honest, this is probably what I have felt most this past year than any previous years. As my peers began to move on with their lives (marriage, family, jobs), I began to feel lonelier in my walk. And so I just continued to serve the church in my singleness. However, by God’s grace, throughout this year, I have experienced the deep form of love and community from others more so than in previous years.
As I began to build more (new) relationships with others, especially with those whom I labor with, I experienced a community of kindred spirits that I haven’t experienced since college. These brothers and sisters love God and love people, and I am proud to join them on their journey. Even more so, they have been a refreshing spring of joy to my soul.
I have been touched so much by the people at my church this year. I have seen kindness shown to me during moments when I do not deserve it. I have cried tears with others when I am most vulnerable and broken. I have screamed joyous shouts with others during times of blessings. I have been surprised with love when I least expected it. My fellow brothers and sisters have shown me, personally, what it looks like to serve one another out of love.
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. (2 Timothy 1:3-4)
My church is willing to adapt
I have the unique opportunity to see how my church has changed over the course of the past 15 or so years. I remember times when my friends and I would complain about our church culture and how it is just so slow to change. How it seems like we are boxed in by the practices and ordinances of the previous generation. It is a millennial way of thinking, and while we may have good and passionate desires, our attitudes were not in the right place.
This past year, as I have reflected upon where my church is at, I have come to realized that we are growing. Slowly, but changing bit by bit, like drops of water carving through limestone. When I have truly pondered upon the progression my church has made, I began to appreciate how my church works. Sure, change is always slow and hard. But my church is willing to make the difficult choices for the good of God’s kingdom.
I am proud of my church. I guess I should be. I am proud in the way we have adapted, especially during difficult trials that can challenge our faith. We complain because we care. We are stubborn because we have principles. We stress because we feel burdened. But in the end, we are willing adapt, because we recognize our weaknesses and God’s power.
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. (2 Timothy 2:22-25)
My church is missional
My fellow peers might disagree with me here. But I think it is important to realize the context and culture our church is coming from. Our church is a family-oriented church. Its Chinese heritage is deeply integrated in many of our programs. Therefore, the inward focus upon our families and community is ingrained into our programs and activities. Yet, in many ways, our church pushes our boundaries missionally in more ways than we can imagine, and I, for one, have been blessed to see how our church positions itself to serve the kingdom globally.
We are committed to send out short-term teams every year. There are countless of trips and the Mission Board is constantly looking for new opportunities. We are committed to our long-term missionaries. We practice Christian hospitality every time we have supported missionaries visit. We send care packages and routinely check in to see how we can better pray for them. It never ceases to amaze me how the mission board continues to stretch themselves to serve God’s kingdom.
Sure, there are many things we can improve with our missions program. I would love to see better debrief processes, better missions discipleship, and a more concrete vision on how we choose locations and ministries to support. But we are nonetheless trending in the right direction and I look forward to see how the rest of the church partners alongside the Mission Board to grow missionally.
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:8-10)